Newsletter #10

This week’s aviation news in India was dominated by the government finally approving the building of a new airport near New Delhi and SpiceJet’s order of 50 Q400 planes to give a fillip to its regional connectivity plans. We have for you what these two developments mean. We also have a bunch of good reads that you will find useful. Happy reading:
 

The Big Airport Mess
The government has okayed, after years of dilly-dallying, the construction of a new airport at Jewar in Greater Noida, about 90 kms away from the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi.  The airport is expected to be operational in about six years and will handle about 30-50 million a year, according to the aviation minister.

Why it matters: The new airport will take the load off the Delhi airport, which even with three runways (a fourth is being built), is saturated. As we have pointed out before, the prospect of an airport capacity crisis in India is real: key metros such as Mumbai and Chennai  have all reached a point of saturation with acute slot constraints and congestion.       

But not enough: The government is aware of the problem no doubt, but it remains to be seen how serious are its efforts to ramp up capacity and improve infrastructure. Problem is it will take 3-4 years at least to build new airports while passenger growth continues unabated. Aviation is growing rapidly in India, the world’s second fastest growing aviation market, where passenger numbers this decade increased 3 times than in the previous 50 years.

Some good news: The government is planning to change laws to ensure that those who bid to build and run airports must have a pre-determined tariffs. Under existing laws, bidders develop airports and approach the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) to levy tariffs. This method is steeped in uncertainty and is costly for both passengers and airlines (airline lobby group IATA has long been complaining about exorbitant airports charges in India).

SpiceJet's Shopping Spree

Ajay Singh’s SpiceJet is on a shopping spree for new planes. It has signed two agreements with Bombardier for 50 Q400s and with Boeing for 40 737 Max 10 planes at the Paris Air Show.  

Why it matters: The Q400s, provided it firms up the orders, means SpiceJet is serious about its regional play. SpiceJet will launch flights under the Udan scheme to Porbandar and Kandla in Gujarat next month.

 It also means it is aware that it needs more planes to compete with IndiGo.  

SpiceJet currently has a fleet of only 55 planes -- 35 Boeing B 737s and 20 Q400s. IndiGo has 135 A320s and has ordered for 50 ATRs for regional routes.

But wait: SpiceJet earlier this year said it will purchase up to 205 new aircraft, including 100 new 737-8 MAX aircraft, but it remains to be seen how many of these will be firmed up. We have our doubts because SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh has a penchant for making tall statements without actually following them up with actions (examples: long-haul flights and Esops for employees).

Who Let The Pilots Out?   
The aviation industry needs 255,000 more pilots by 2027 to keep up with its rapid growth and is not doing enough to fill those vacancies, according to a new study.

"Rapid fleet expansion and high pilot retirement rates create a further need to develop 180,000 first officers into new airline captains, more than in any previous decade," said the report by CAE, which trains pilots for airlines around the world.

Nowhere is this trait more visible than in India, where we have been facing a severe deficit of pilots for years. Only a few airlines like IndiGo is addressing this problem by investing in training while others such as SpiceJet are resorting to short-sighted measures such as enforcing one-year notice periods for commanders looking to quit.

Bon In-Flight Appetit
Airline food, especially in economy, has long been synonymous with terrible food. But that is changing.

You should read this NYT article about airlines that are attempting to make their economy food on long-haul flights tempting. This is largely due to competition.

We have seen how some airlines with excellnt on board services and punctuality can actually charge more than competitors. Passengers don’t mind paying extra for those tickets. They would also not mind paying extra if the food is something to look forward to.

Newsletter #9

This Regulator!

The government may wax eloquent about reforms in aviation, but if it seeks true change it should start with reforming the regulator, DGCA. As is well known, DGCA faces a severe manpower shortage and most of those on the rolls are clueless about aviation or simply arrogant, inept or corrupt.  

This week, all those unflattering attributes again came to the fore when a senior officer took umbrage at a bunch of pilots getting his designation wrong in a letter written by them. Next we heard that the officer slapped a pilot after summoning him to office.  

Things took an even more bizarre turn when 34 pilots were picked up for questioning by cops for posting obscene messages about the officer in their WhatsApp group after the DGCA complained to the cops. The matter was resolved only when the parents of the pilots approached the cops and apologised on their behalf.  

The pilot association has sought action against the officer for harassment. Ah, Indian aviation never ceases to surprise.

How Things Change...

Not long ago, the Gulf carriers could do no wrong in aviation. That now looks a distant memory.  

Ebit margins at Middle Eastern carriers will drop to their lowest level in six years during 2017, according to IATA. That makes the region the least-profitable worldwide.

In contrast, the Bloomberg World Airlines Index, whose members have been at the receiving end of Gulf rivals, has risen 24% in a year.  

This is due to a confluence of recent events. This week,  Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates banned flights and ended maritime links with Qatar. This followed the US ban on laptops in the cabins of flights from the Middle East.

Not Jumbo Enough  

The A380 is a massive plane, right? Well, Airbus thinks it can be made ‘bigger’.

Airbus is looking to remove the upper deck exit door on the plane as part of measures to increase the seat count in the model. Airbus believes removing the door can help it squeeze in as many as eight seats.  

The move is probably a result of demand from its customers. Airlines are increasingly squeezing more seats into their planes to accommodate more passengers.

Biz Jet Funk

The slump in business jets sales will continue for two more years, according to a new forecast. The reason is simple: a glut of planes. 

The number of business aircraft today has doubled to 21,817 in 14 years. But incredibly they fly nearly the same 4.3-million missions a year as they did in 2003.  It should not then surprise that the annual utilization per aircraft at over 350 hours is about one-tenth that of commercial jetliners, according to the report by aviation consultant Rolland Vincent.

Let's Pray At The Airport  

We’ve seen the evolution of airports from boring edifices to sweeping, swank structures that give malls and art galleries a run for their money. What next? 

The airport of the future will be one giant city, packed with the conveniences and cultural offerings one would find in a traditional metropolis. To cite one example, the prayer rooms one finds now will evolve into a chapel or a temple. 

This is inevitable for two reasons. One, the sheer increase in traffic: the number of people flying is  projected to reach 7.3 billion by 2034. That is six Indias. Two, with revenues from parking and baggage fees due to fall, airports and airlines need to find new avenues to generate money.   

Weekly Roundup 

GMR wins bid for Heraklion Airport in Crete, Greece.  

The government launches an initiative named DigiYatra that aims to bring together the entire travel industry to develop a digital ecosystem that will deliver Indian customers a seamless, consistent and paperless service experience at every part of their journey. 

Travellers may soon have to provide a ID like passport, PAN card or Aadhaar when booking flights tickets.

Newsletter #8

RepAIR India

There seems to be no end to the buzz around Air India. We told you that something was afoot after Air India boss Ashwani Lohani lamented about the airline’s huge debt.  

Now, it turns out that the government is looking at exiting the airline totally after its think tank, Niti Aayog, has recommended its privatisation. Here are some of the details of the road map that the think tank has envisioned for the future of the airline:   

  • Writing off loans of around Rs 30,000 crore (AI has debt of around Rs 60,000 crore, of which a third is aircraft-related loans).

  • Transfer the aircraft-related loans and the working capital to the new owner, while taking care of half the liability.

  • Hive off the real estate assets, some of which are lucrative, into a separate company.

The aviation minister has said his ministry is studying the recommendation and the aviation secretary said the ministry will act on the recommendation in three months. 

But the junior minister said the government has a robust transformation plan for the airline, which includes a winning strategy to improve operational performance, corporate governance and management performance. So what is it going to be: privatisation or transformation? Confusing, right?

Privatisation or a stake sale is the only future that remains for the airline. Besides being led by bureaucrats who have no clue about aviation and the way most government institutions are run, when the need of the hour is nimble footed decisions, the Air India mess can be attributed to the huge plane order  when they should have been leased given the state of its finances; the ill-advised and badly executed merger its Indian offshoot and surrendering lucrative routes and schedules to foreign and Indian competitors.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered cases against unnamed officials of the aviation ministry and private individuals for these irregularities, committed by the previous government. 

Question is given the funk Air India is in and likely opposition from trade unions, will the government find a buyer.

Three Cheers

The Narendra Modi government has completed three years in office and there have been a raft of report cards on its performance. How did the aviation ministry fare? 

It is safe to say that the government ignored aviation for the first two years. Then two things happened: RK Choubey was named aviation secretary and Jayant Sinha junior aviation minister. 

Since then, the aviation ministry has worked efficiently and quickly. All the ‘achievements’ that the government has showcased -- the aviation policy, affordable flying, no-fly list, Digi Yatra and Air Sewa -- have happened in the past one year.  

Of course, no surprise that the government has also touted a fall in fares, even aircraft orders, all of which have happened despite its long neglect, as its achievements. The truth is while the frenzied action and attention of late are welcome, the fruits of its labour need time to be counted as achievements.

Jet, Set, Gone  

Jet Airways finally has a CEO. Vinay Dube, currently senior vice president, Asia Pacific with Delta Air Lines Inc, is the new chap at the top.

Dube comes with all the right credentials. He is an aviation veteran, with nearly three decades of experience, Delta is profitable and he played a key role in helping the airline expand in A-Pac.

Jet has been without a CEO since February 2016 when Cramer Ball quit. Dube will hopefully steady the ship at Jet, whose profit has dropped 91% despite a higher income due to costlier fuel, lower airfares, higher capacity and weak demand from the key Gulf region.

Dube’s appointment shows that Jet chairman Naresh Goyal is calling the shots at the airline now and its strategic partner Etihad has almost fully receded into the background.

Jet, meanwhile, has announced it will add a third daily Mumbai-Heathrow flight. Jet could be leveraging its recent deal with Virgin Atlantic at LHR, generating US connectivity there, and making the most, like Air India, of the laptop ban on US-bound flights from the Middle East. 

The bad news is that The Trump administration may expand a current laptop ban to cover all international flights to and from the US, according to the head of the US homeland security.

Virtual World

Control towers at airports are a common sight. But a number of airports are shuttering them and switching to using remote centres to look after flights.  

The virtual centres are housed inside ordinary buildings, located several kilometers from the airports. They receive a live video feed from cameras positioned around the airfield to create a “virtual” image of the airport to be displayed on large screens positioned around the controllers’ desks.  

The virtual towers are cheaper and improve safety. A typical control tower costs millions. A virtual tower provides controllers with better view, especially at night and in poor visibility.

Now, A Russian Plane  

After China, Russia too has joined the aircraft race with an airliner that is designed to compete with Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, the most popular planes in the world. 

The Irkut MC-21 is Russia’s first large airliner since the fall of the Soviet Union. It launched its maiden flight last Sunday.

Size Matters

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has launched the world’s biggest plane. The Stratolaunch  boasts a 117-metre wingspan, six engines and 28 wheels.  

It is not designed to carry humans, but launch satellites into orbit because launching the satellites on rockets while the Stratolaunch in flight saves plenty of fuel compared to sending them into orbit from a launchpad. 

While on size, let’s also talk about GE’s turbofan engine. It is humongous, as wide as a Boeing 737 fuselage. 

The engine has been built using lightweight carbon fiber and 3-D printing and will eventually power Boeing’s 777X, the biggest twinjet ever. Despite its size, it’s cleaner, quieter, and more fuel-efficient than its predecessors and flight-testing is due to start this year.

Bombardier's New Cabin Theme

Bombardier has a  new cabin interior for the Global 5000 and 6000, inspired by the high-end automotive industry. So the stress is on comfort and ergonomics. 

The seats feature soft, almost organic shapes with a higher backrest, giving better support to the shoulders and head. They have raised armrests to allow a more natural resting position, bearing more weight as a passenger shifts position. 

In the entrance galley and lavatories, there is the option of non-slip hardwood or natural stone tile flooring surfaces. The galley has revised straight cabinetry lines, allowing for slightly increased storage volume. 

Bombardier is clearly raising its game against competition. It nows offers hydraulic maintenance and repair services as part of its expanding MRO capabilities in the UK. 

The MRO operation based in Northern Ireland offers full inspection, testing, repair and overhaul of individual hydraulic components and hydraulic assemblies for Bombardier, Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

Newsletter #7

DespAIR India

Railways and aviation are as different as chalk and cheese. Why are we saying this now?

Remember the tall claim by Air India boss Ashwani Lohani, a former Railways bureaucrat, that he would turn around Air India within a year. Still, Lohani is something of a turnaround expert.

But nearly two years have passed since Lohani took charge and we haven’t seen any radical change in the way the government owned airline is run.  Even the airline’s claim that it reported an operating profit in 2015-16 was bogus. One shudders to imagine the mess if not for the benign oil prices.

Now Lohani says the mountain of debt that the airline has accumulated is “unsurmountable”. The correct word is insurmountable, but never mind.

Lohani’s admission in a Facebook post the other day is as good as (or bad depending on if you truly believed his turnaround credentials) he having thrown in the towel.

He says the decision to merge Air India with Indian Airlines and the decisions of the previous government caused the mess. But all this is old hat.

What one wants to know is how did Lohani conclude that there is no hope for the airline (which to be fair few will disagree with). Or has his statement anything to do with the buzz swirling around privatising the airline?

In any case, Air India services continue to suck. As we said earlier, the airline has benefitted from the laptop ban on US-bound flights from the Middle East.

But that opportunity will be lost if it doesn’t quickly buck up, at least in the US-bound flights. This review of a flight to New York reveals filthy bathrooms, dirty seats and patchy inflight entertainment systems.

Sheikhen & Rattled

Qatar Airways’ ambition to establish an airline in India will have to wait. This report says that Qatar is likely to put its plan on hold until there is “further clarity from the Indian government on FDI norms”.

Indian laws prohibit full ownership by foreign airlines. It seems that Qatar may have made the big announcement without seeking clarity from Indian authorities. Or the plan may have been nipped in the bud due to the lobbying pressure by Indian airlines. We told you about both situations: CEO Akbar Al Baker’s habit of making grand statements without substance and the lobbying prowess of Indian airlines.

These Guys, We Tell You  

DGCA plans to double the notice period for pilots leaving an airline. It is a draft, but the regulator wants the notice period of commanders to be set at a year.

This is unheard of in any industry. The justification is that sudden exits lead to cancellation of flights and passenger discomfort.

But forget six months, isn’t three months sufficient for airlines to find replacements?

One could argue that there is a pilot shortage in India. But that has been a perennial problem, which should be addressed by investing in talent and not by such stop-gap, labour unfriendly measures.

Are Your Pilots Happy? 

While we are on the topic of pilots, it will be worth looking at how Spirit is feeling the weight of pilot unrest. The US airline is famous for its ultra-low cost business model, which gives it room to set ultra cheap fares.

But that successful model has come under strain due to a public dispute with its nearly 1,600 pilots. The pilots wants the same salaries as bigger airlines such as American, Delta and United. Spirit says raises will disrupt its low-cost model.

It will be interesting for Indian LCCs to see how this episode plays out, although in their case, they pay huge salaries to expat pilots.

It's Those %#*% Birds Again  

A symposium earlier this week by ICAO in Montreal threw up some interesting statistics about bird strikes and  also suggested solutions.

  • 89% occurred on or near the aerodrome.

  • 28% occurred during the take-off run or climb

  • 61% occurred during the approach or landing roll

  • 87% occurred during the day

  • 13% occurred at night

Avian radars can help predict strikes, according to Steve Osmek, Manager, Airport Biologist (Seattle-Tacoma Airport). “That’s where the avian radar & FOD Sensors come into play. The radar can help identify wildlife hot spots, allowing aircrafts to slow down or take appropriate measures before a strike occurs.”

Airbus Cars

Several companies such as Uber, Google and Tesla are trying to build flying cars but the company that actually built planes might beat them all.

Like others, the company is combining lightweight materials, cheaper and better batteries, and improved avionics software to make this happen. But Airbus is also looking at a new way.

Airbus is dreaming up a vehicle that looks desirable and has accessible interiors. The design is complete and now the hard part -- engineering -- begins. A demonstration flight of a full-scale prototype is due by the end of the year.

RIP, Shukriya Khanum

Shukriya Khanum, who was the first Pakistani woman to obtain a commercial pilot's licence, has died of cancer in Lahore. She was 82.

Khanum’s life was epochal not just because she bagged a licence as early as 1959 but also because she had to battle plenty of odds to reach the milsetone. Pakistan International Airlines then did not permit female pilots to fly commercial planes. She therefore had to be content with the job of flight instructor at PIA's training centre.

Kahanun’s is such a fascinating story. And inspiring.

We Hate This Guy!

Alex Macheras tests out planes before they reach clients. So he jetsets around the world, flies first class and sips champagne. And he is just 20.  

He is an aviation analyst who tests seats and tastes in-flight food. Macheras says he has been interested in planes “as long as he can remember.”

We are too. Anybody listening?

Weekly Updates

GST: Economy tickets to get cheaper from July 1. 

SpiceJet introduces e-boarding facility in Bengaluru.

Jet Airways to phase out ATRs.

Air traffic increases 15% in April.

Mumbai becomes busiest single-runway airport.

Newsletter #6

IndiGo Springs A Surprise

IndiGo president Aditya Ghosh has consistently said two things. One, a key reason for the success of India’s largest airline is they use one type of aircraft: the Airbus 320s, which helps keep operations simple and costs low. Two, the potential of growth in India is still vast, which is why the airline made two humongous plane orders from Airbus.     

On the first thing at least, IndiGo made a radical departure by ordering a new type of planes -- more than50 ATR 72-600 aircraft in a deal worth $1.3 billion. IndiGo has signed a term sheet to purchase the planes, which will enter operations by the year end. Nonetheless, the order is consistent with what Ghosh has always said: there is still scope to grow in India.

For the government, this is the best ratification it could have got for its new regional connectivity scheme. But IndiGo’s might could also dampen the enthusiasm of other potential investors. 

Air India Gets Busy

We are happy to note that the government-owned airline is getting aggressive of late. It will launch a Delhi–Los Angeles service on September 1 2017 and flights to Tel Aviv, Dallas and Nairobi later this year.

The airline also plans to launch service from Delhi to the Stockholm Arlanda airport in Sweden on August 15 scrapping for now its previously announced Copenhagen flights. This suggests Air India is doing fine on the Delhi-San Francisco route, on which it doubled the weekly flights to six from November 2016. It is also possible that it is benefiting from the electronic device ban on Gulf carriers for US-bound flights.

That’s not all. From August, Air India will launch direct flights between Colombo and Varanasi. This was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his two-day visit to Sri Lanka.

One just hopes that this is a business decision based on research after seeing sufficient number of travellers and not just political. India is cozying up to Sri Lanka after seeing Chinese overtures.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan Airlines continues its expansion in India by adding three more routes, from July 2017. The new services are from Colombo to Coimbatore, Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, according to Routes Online.

SpiceJet Flirts With Long-Haul Routes

Borrowing a page from the rulebook of AirAsia X, Norwegian and Scoot, SpiceJet could become the latest LCC to enter the long-haul market with widebody aircraft. SpiceJet is “working on the economics” of potential long-haul operations, Chief Financial Officer Kiran Koteshwar told Aviation Daily.

But these are early days to fully commit to the plan, according to Koteshwar. If the plan takes off, SpiceJet would target Eastern Europe and Turkey (you sure, Kiran?) rather than Western Europe, he said.

But SpiceJet does not operate any widebody aircraft. Nor does it have any on firm order. Yet, it does have options for 50 Boeing aircraft that could be exercised as 737 MAX aircraft or widebody aircraft. The 787s are the most likely choice here.

Later this month, SpiceJet will expand service to Bangladesh through a second daily Kolkata–Dhaka flight. SpiceJet uses the Dash8-Q400 planes on this route.

Leadership Lessons From Delta CEO

Ed Bastian was named CEO of US carrier Delta Air Lines a year ago. A 20-year veteran at Delta, he listseight lessons that he says can come only “from sitting at the CEO’s desk”.

We particularly liked two: Bastian’s emphasis on delegating powers to juniors after empowering them, and how it’s okay to stumble as long as you can get up and move on. We hope you guys in Indian aviation will find this useful.

An Aviation Model Under Threat  
The Gulf carriers have been the most successful of their lot in recent years. Now things don’t look so rosy.
Three reasons for this: one, the crash in oil price since 2014, which clipped their customers’ spending power and cut demand for air travel from the region.  Two, terror attacks in the region has dampened travel demand. Three, the Trump administration’s travel restrictions.

Mitsubishi Struggles
Mistubishi Aircraft Corp’s MRJ passenger jet program, which once looked promising, is now floundering. The company has suffered five delays due to poor execution.

Since timing is crucial in the airline business, Mitsubishi might miss the bus, or in this, the plane.  Customers cannot wait forever, and they may flock to rivals like Bombardier or Embraer.

Newsletter#5

China Outflies India
Remember all those reports that said the government’s demonetisation move had no impact on air travel. Well, screw those reports because India has lost the crown as the fastest growing market on the planet to China.
 
The Chinese domestic aviation market grew 15.1% compared with India’s 14.6% growth in March. “This is the first possible sign of reduced cash supply and wider economic uncertainty weighing on demand,” airline lobby group IATA said.
 
No surprises there because the majority of Indians still rely on travel agents, whom they pay cash to book tickets and air travel typically is one of the first industries to bear the brunt of economic uncertainty.  Chinese aviation is on Cloud 9, with its first large passenger jetliner finishing its maiden test flight on Friday. 
 

Don't Even Think About It!

Draft rules for a no-fly list for unruly passengers were unveiled on Friday. That was some fast work by the government given that the trigger -- the incident of an MP assaulting an Air India employee -- happened in March.

Here are the highlights:

  • Passengers can be barred from flying from three months to up to two years.
  • This is based on the level of unruliness.
  • Level 1 = Disruptive behaviour, Level 2 = Physically abusive behaviour. Level 3 = Life threatening behaviour.
  • Passengers can appeal the decision of an airline to bar them at a committee formed at the airlines-level and at the national level, both headed by retired judges.

That's A Heavy Load

US airlines made $4.2 billion in 2016 by charging passengers to check or carry on bags, according to Department of Transportation  data released this week. In an industry where margins are as thin as a boarding pass, such revenue generators are godsend.

In India too ancillary revenues are on the uptick though the government allowed airlines to charge ancillary fees only in 2013. Ancillary revenues for IndiGo, for example, rose to 12.4% in 2016 from 11.3% in 2015.

… but wait!

A US court has ruled that passengers can sue airlines that charge baggage fees for refunds if they fail to deliver bags when the plane lands. Most US airlines charge for checked baggage and there are plenty of cases for bags going missing. India is no different, as this case reminds us:  

From Qatar, With Love

Remember Qatar Airways  announced in March its plans to establish an Indian carrier with a fleet of 100 narrow-body jets. The move was dismissed by several aviation watchers, given CEO Akbar Al Baker’s penchant for making grand announcements without following through despite the airline’s long interest in expanding  in India.

Now, BloombergQuint says it makes a lot of sense for the airline to start an offshoot in India. For one, there are twice the number of Indians in Qatar than Qataris. For another, Inda-Qatarwas the fourth busiest international route for India in 2015-16.

If this strategy holds good, Indian airlines too should consider launching flights to regions that draws swathes of expats to India. Actually, they should have long ago. But first they will be busy trying to foil Qatar's plans.

What's Cooking?  
Air travel remains an aspiration in India, given how only a small fraction of the population flies. So we love it when we have behind-the-scenes reports like this that make aviation familiar, telling readers how in-flight meals are prepared and delivered.

As one would expect, cooking for an airline isn’t the same as whipping up food for a restaurant. There are weight considerations, for example: business class meals weigh around 300 grams and economy class weigh approximately 220 grams.

Here's An Idea
US airline Delta is offering seamless airport transfers to its passengers by partnering BLADE, an on-demand helicopter startup.  Passengers flying on New York-JFK can avoid road traffic by using the app.

How about  Indian charter companies partnering Indian airlines for a similar service? Charter companies can escort passengers to their aircraft once they land on an IndiGo or Air India flight.

Fly By Night
If you didn’t already now, the view while flying at night can be breathtaking. Watch thisvideo, if you don’t believe us. Bet you will stay awake when you fly across the Atlantic Ocean to South America the next time.

Weekly Roundup

> Vistara to order 100 planes

Aviation consultancy Capa says Vistara will order 100 Boeing 777X. People with direct knowledge of the development told Rede that though it is true that the airline will make a huge plane order, the timing and type of planes are pure speculation.

No announcements in Chennai airport
After Mumbai and Hyderabad, Chennai airport too ends announcements on flight information.

Vijayawada airport goes international
The government has upgraded the status of Vijayawada airport to international.

Newsletter#4

Welcome Onboard! 

Dear Reder,
Thanks a ton for signing up for the Rede Newsletter, your weekly digest for what’s REALLY happening in the aviation world. We send an email with a bunch of stories tracking tech, passenger behavior and the business for the Indian aviation community and anyone interested in the fastest growing aviation market on the planet. It is the best way for you to quickly catch up with what you need to know about our amazing industry (you can read more about Rede here).

Subscribe  Facebook   Twitter

Look It's A Chinese Plane!
China almost has its own plane. Well, its first jetliner passed a crucial ground test earlier this week. Can we stop those India-China comparisons please?

The plane is a marriage of Chinese and Western aerospace designs. Before you scoff at a Chinese ‘product’, note that the plane might be actually comfortable than an Airbus or Boeing.
 
The C919 airliner has 168 seats, about the same number as an A320 or B737-800, the best-sellers among all planes and its wheels are almost identical to the latest Airbus models. Let’s hope it is as cheap as most other Chinese products. 
 

UDAN aka RCS Takes off
Hurrah! The first regional connectivity scheme (RCS) flight in India has taken off after Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off an Alliance Air flight from Shimla to Delhi.  

The government has high hopes for RCS or UDAN (short for Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik; who in the government comes up with these acronyms?), with Modi saying 70 regional airports will come up in the next one year.

No doubt, a jumbo country like India needs regional connectivity flights – it takes 10 hours to reach Shimla to Delhi by road and an hour by flight – but as we reported last week, it will be a huge challenge for RCS to succeed.

Ministers Split Over Dubai
The Sheikhs of Dubai, read Emirates, have long been clamouring for more seats on the India-Dubai sector under the bilateral flying rights between the two sides. Though bilaterals insist on reciprocity, these arrangements have been more beneficial to Emirates than Indian airlines (actually detrimental to government-owned Air India).
 
Given that airlines from both sides have exhausted the 63,000 weekly seats allotted to them, there maybe a case for increasing the seats, as long as the reciprocity is followed in letter and spirit. But the aviation minister of India and his deputy are on different pages on allowing additional flights.
 
Here is a good report in The Economic Times: it is unusual for two ministers to tell a reporter on record about their differences. This comes as the Indian passport holders with a valid American visa or a Green Card are eligible to get a UAE visa on arrival.

United Feels Sorry
After reaching an amicable settlement with the passenger it violently dragged off a plane three weeks ago, United Airlines has made big changes to regain customer trust.
Here are the changes in a nutshell:
1. Limit use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only.
2. Customers already seated on a plane don’t have to give up their seat involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk.
3. Customer compensation incentives for voluntary denied boarding increased up to $10,000.
4. A customer solutions team will be created to provide agents with creative solutions.

Facebook Gets Airline Friendly

Remember, Facebook had introduced Dynamic Ads on its platform and on Instagram focused on hotels. They are now being rolled out for airlines.

The difference is that to optimize against route and schedule, keeping in mind the needs of airlines. The buzz is that the ads could be as successful as they were for hotels (who knows more about our habits than Facebook, after all?).

Garmin Upgrades Pilot app
Tech company Garmin has upgraded its pilot app (on IOS) with integrated weight and balance calculations as well as aircraft performance tables and calculations. Garmin Pilot also allows flight plan editing from the moving map page and creation of customised checklists.

Newsletter #3

Welcome Onboard! 

Dear Reder,
Thanks a ton for signing up for the Rede Newsletter, your weekly digest for what’s REALLY happening in the aviation world. We send an email with a bunch of stories tracking tech, passenger behavior and the business for the Indian aviation community and anyone interested in the fastest growing aviation market on the planet. It is the best way for you to quickly catch up with what you need to know about our amazing industry (you can read more about Rede here).

Subscribe  Facebook   Twitter

Look It's A Chinese Plane!
China almost has its own plane. Well, its first jetliner passed a crucial ground test earlier this week. Can we stop those India-China comparisons please?

The plane is a marriage of Chinese and Western aerospace designs. Before you scoff at a Chinese ‘product’, note that the plane might be actually comfortable than an Airbus or Boeing.
 
The C919 airliner has 168 seats, about the same number as an A320 or B737-800, the best-sellers among all planes, and its wheels are almost identical to the latest Airbus models. Let’s hope it is as cheap as most Chinese products. 
 

UDAN aka RCS Takes off
Hurrah! The first regional connectivity scheme (RCS) flight in India has taken off after Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off an Alliance Air flight from Shimla to Delhi.  

The government has high hopes for RCS or UDAN (short for Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik; who in the government comes up with these acronyms?), with Modi saying 70 regional airports will come up in the next one year.

No doubt, a jumbo country like India needs regional connectivity flights – it takes 10 hours to reach Shimla to Delhi by road and an hour by flight – but as we reported last week, it will be a huge challenge for RCS to succeed.

Ministers Split Over Dubai
The Sheikhs of Dubai, read Emirates, have long been clamouring for more seats on the India-Dubai sector under the bilateral flying rights between the two sides. Though bilaterals insist on reciprocity, these arrangements have been more beneficial to Emirates than Indian airlines (actually detrimental to government-owned Air India).
 
Given that airlines from both sides have exhausted the 63,000 weekly seats allotted to them, there maybe a case for increasing the seats, as long as the reciprocity is followed in letter and spirit. But the aviation minister of India and his deputy are on different pages on allowing additional flights.
 
Here is a good report in The Economic Times: it is unusual for two ministers to tell a reporter on record about their differences. This comes as Indian passport holders with a valid American visa or a Green Card are eligible to get a UAE visa on arrival.

United Feels Sorry
After reaching an amicable settlement with the passenger it violently dragged off a plane three weeks ago, United Airlines has made big changes to regain customer trust.

Here are the changes in a nutshell:
1. Limit use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only.
2. Customers already seated on a plane don’t have to give up their seat involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk.
3. Customer compensation incentives for voluntary denied boarding increased up to $10,000.
4. A customer solutions team will be created to provide agents with creative solutions.

Facebook Gets Airline Friendly

Remember, Facebook had introduced Dynamic Ads on its platform and on Instagram focused on hotels. They are now being rolled out for airlines.

The difference is that they can be optimised against route and schedule, keeping in mind the needs of airlines. The buzz is that the ads could be as successful as they were for hotels (who knows more about our habits than Facebook, after all?).

Garmin Upgrades Pilot app
Tech company Garmin has upgraded its pilot app (on IOS) with integrated weight and balance calculations as well as aircraft performance tables and calculations. Garmin Pilot also allows flight plan editing from the moving map page and creation of customised checklists.

Newsletter #2

Welcome Onboard! 

Dear Reder,
Thanks a ton for signing up for the Rede Newsletter, your weekly digest for what’s REALLY happening in the aviation world. We send an email with a bunch of stories tracking tech, passenger behavior and the business for the Indian aviation community and anyone interested in the fastest growing aviation market on the planet. It is the best way for you to quickly catch up with what you need to know about our amazing industry (you can read more about Rede here).

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Good Idea, Bad Planning
Is the hype around the government’s regional connectivity scheme (RCS) justified? No doubt, the government has made life easier for airline investors with a raft of incentives. But all those efforts may amount to nothing because of Indian aviation’s perennial infrastructure bottlenecks and the exorbitant costs of owning and running smaller planes. Here is why we think the RCS might face huge challenges. 
 

What's Going On Inside?
Business class seats are synonymous with ample space. Now airlines want to squeeze in more seats into the front of planes. Aviation design studio Acumen’s setup, introduced recently, is a tweak on the traditional “herringbone” seating configuration that has business class seats placed two-by-two, pivoted towards each other but separated by privacy screens. 

In the new arrangement, passengers sit in one of two types of rows. In the first, the two seats are juxtaposed side by side, both pointing straight ahead, but shielded by a “privacy screen”. They’re flanked in the front and behind by the other row, in which the two seats angle away from the centre of the plane. 

Better 787 Seats
People flying economy in the Boeing 787 Dreamliners needn’t despair. LIFT by EnCore has made improvements in the 787 seats by creating more legroom, and moving the side supports away from the crucial crunch zone between knee and seatback. Passengers will feel they are not being packed in like sardines.

Cool Butts 
There are more seating improvements in the works. Lightweight cushion that retains less heat is part of the raft of innovations underway in aircraft interiors. Here’s a peek into the future of aircraft interior design that will make flying more pleasant.
 

Things Flight Attendants Do
Air travel is not always sexy. Ask flight attendants who end up cleaning bathrooms. Did you know they beat the stench by pouring hot coffee down the toilets?

Their Wish List  
Flight attendants don’t expect much from passengers. Just saying hello while boarding and paying attention to safety instructions, among other things, would suffice. Be nice to them, or else...

Jobs In The Air
As global passenger numbers are set to double by 2035, more than 36 million new aviation-related jobs will be needed by 2034, estimates airline lobby group IATA. To kickstart aviation careers, IATA offers training in fields as diverse as airline financial management and ancillary revenue strategies.

Middlemen, Take That!
Lufthansa which has been waging a battle against middlemen middlemen who distribute airfares through travel agencies globally has found an ally in Ukraine International Airlines. The airline is adding a $9 fee per segment for bookings made through the four global distribution systems — Amadeus, Sabre, Travelport, and Travelsky — that process nearly all airline tickets worldwide that are not sold directly by airlines. This could encourage more airlines to join the fight.

Boeing 737 Max 9 Takes Off
The variant of the recast 737 completed its first flight on April 13. Boeing says the planesreduce operating costs by 8% than its key competitor, increases fuel efficiency by 1.8% and the interiors "dramatically elevates the passenger experience". That is why the planemaker believes the 737 MAX family will have more takers with low-cost carriers (LCCs) in Asia-Pacific region.

Newsletter #1

Welcome Onboard! 

Dear Reder,

Thanks a ton for signing up for the Rede Newsletter, your weekly digest for what’s REALLY happening in the aviation world. We send a weekly email with a bunch of stories tracking tech, passenger behavior and the business for the Indian aviation community and anyone interested in the world's fastest growing aviation market. We believe it is the best way for you to quickly catch up with what you need to know about our amazing industry (you can read more about Rede here). Here's the first one.
 

United, Seriously? 

Videos of US law enforcement officers dragging a man off a United Airlines flight departing from Chicago's O'Hare airport shocked the internet on Monday.The incident is the result of a common practice among airlines called overbooking.  Airlines sell more tickets than what a flight can accommodate hoping people will miss (bloody traffic!) or not show up for a flight (cancellation). If all turn up, they hope some pasengers will volunteer to be compensated to take another flight.This transaction is usually done before passengers enter the plane. But United somehow allowed people to board before realising it needed to make room for four staff members. After finding no takers for its 'offer', the airline chose to "reaccommodate" the unfortunate passenger against his will. The overbooking practice is not illegal. The US Department of Transportation's laws allow airlines to do this as long as they pay the displaced (that acquires quite a different meaning in United's case) customer for their troubles — up to a maximum of $1,350. Now thanks to the incident, there are calls to review this practice. United of course is now bearing the brunt of a nightmarish backlash. It has been ridiculed for its wierd responses and has been accused of racism. The outrage continues as United's stock prices wobbles and videos of the incident are being widely shared. The United CEO has since apologised.

What about India?
The practice of overbooking is prevalent but not rampant in India. India's aviation regulator too allows this practice, but has set strict rules for airlines to compensate inconvenienced passengers. They must pay up to Rs 10,000 if they are unable to arrange an alternate flight within 24 hours of the denied flight or up to Rs 20,000 if the alternate flight can be arranged only 24 hours after the denied flight.  

Rogue MP Back On Board

Air India has revoked a flight ban on an MP who beat one of its employees after its owner, the government, mounted pressure. The airline had been cancelling tickets booked by Ravindra Gaikwad, of the Shiv Sena party, an ally of the ruling BJP government, until the government, which caved in to the pressure tactics of the hardline party from Maharashtra, ordered it to lift the ban. The government's excuse is Gaikwad wrote to the aviation minister to express "regret". Never mind that he is yet to apologise to Air India or the employee. Other airlines who had joined Air India in denying boarding to Gaikwad were quick to revoke the ban. So much for a strong government. The only silver lining is the government will (hopefully) act on a no-fly list. The US has one. You can read more about it here

Biometrics for Passengers

Airlines such as British Airways, KLM and Air New Zeland have been using facial recognition software to get on board flights. This allows travelers to avoid showing documents at each stop in the terminal, reducing their inconvenience and help airlines with faster boarding. These efforts are still at the trial stage, but holds hope for the future.

Growth Slows in A-Pac Bizjets

The Asia-Pacific business jet fleet will likely grow just 1% this year as new aircraft deliveries decline, according to a new study.The fleet in the region, which includes Greater China, India, Australia , totaled 1,155 aircraft at the end of 2016. While the airline industry has been seeing a sustained resurgence, the private jet industry is slogging it out. Hopefully things will get better.

A Child's Love for Airports

We are signing off this issue with a lovely article of a three-year-old who is fascinated with airport infrastructure. He doesn't fret over flights delays and security lines. He actually looks forward to it. We get it!
 
 
Thanks... see you next week,
Team Rede